Friday, March 28, 2014

Tesla Adds Additional Shielding to Prevent Fires From Impact

Elon Musk posted a blog explaining a new initiative taken by Tesla to further reduce the risk of car fires triggered by impact with road debris. There were two car fires last year caused by the car hitting metal road debris at high speed which punctured the battery compartment beneath the car. The blog can be read at Tesla Adds Titanium Underbody Shield and Aluminum Deflector Plates to Model S.

The main points of interest to me as an owner were:

  • Gas cars had 200,000 car fires last year. The Tesla had two.
  • There are existing safeguards in place to prevent injury because the car warns the driver ahead of time and there is a firewall that protects passengers in case of fire.
  • They are going a step further by adding this new shielding to reduce the risk to "virtually zero"
  • They will retrofit this new shielding into existing cars on request or during normal service.
The blog also has short looping animated GIFs that show video from the undercarriage of the car and how debris impacts beneath the car with the new underbody protection. Take a look at the blog, its very interesting.

My personal take is that I feel like I'm in good hands with Tesla Motors in general. Their service center has taken good care of me so far and I feel like the company is proactively addressing issues with the car with the goal to exceed gas cars in quality and safety. Still pretty happy with my Model S.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Door Handles and Great Service

Since my Model S was delivered fairly early (December 2012), there were some upgraded parts that didn't make it to my car. One of those was the door handles. One of the issues with the original version of the door handles is that their sensor sometimes trips incorrectly. So a couple of times, I can remember parking the car, hitting the Park button and then one of the doors pops open. The root cause is that the original door handle relied only on the feel of your hand on the handle to determine if someone was opening it and had a narrow margin of error so the sensor would sometimes trip even if you didn't touch it. I noticed this sometimes would happen if it were a little humid outside. If you bring this up to service, they will offer to change out the door handles for the new design under warranty. The new design is similar but will pull out just a little when you pull them. In other words, instead of that completely solid feel, the handle has some "give" and pulls out just slightly when you tug on them. This makes them more reliable and less likely to accidentally trip.

I liked the original door handles and how they operate and felt. I got used to the solid feel to them and so was resisting having them changed out for a while. But yesterday morning, my driver side door handle stopped working entirely. So my hand was forced. Cool thing is, they arranged to send out techs to my location (I was at work) the same day, to valet my car for me from there over to the service center, replace all door handles in addition to standard service checks, and then bring the car back to me before my work day was out. That amazes me. I never have had such convenience from any car company. They didn't inconvenience me in any way. Kudos to Tesla! Thanks.

Tesla Model S Extended Door Handle

Friday, February 21, 2014

Free Data and Internet

Tesla posted its shareholder letter for 2013 here.

Reading through it, I found an interesting note about free internet radio and data for 4 years for new customers. Mine has been "free" since I received the car in December 2012 and I was curious how long it would remain so. They also said that this would take effect for existing customers on January 1, 2014. That means that I'll have it free for 5 years total. Very cool.

Only thing I don't like is that I don't have a user name or password for my slacker account and I'm sure there may be more I can do with it online. Not complaining, I use slacker more than I use XM in my Model S. Its quite good. I'm curious if they'll ever make Pandora a choice. That would be nice too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

One Year Since Delivery

My Tesla Model S was delivered on December 12, 2012. An easy date to remember - 12-12-12. Since it has now been one year, I thought I would write about how I feel about having the car now that I have a year's worth of experience. At one year, I must say, I haven't felt even a twinge of buyer's remorse. The car has been a dream. Below is my list of all of the things I've love about it. Many of these things are not the type of things that come through very well in reading the typical reviews in magazines. Some of them are subtle details that I've noticed having used the car daily. So here goes.

One pedal driving - It's hard to describe how much you get used to this. When I near a corner in my neighborhood, I let up on the throttle and the car slows at a perfectly smooth pace, transitioning from acceleration or constant speed to deceleration with no hesitation, shifting, etc. You go around the corner without ever moving your foot to the brake. When approaching stop lights or signs, you also don't hit the brake until the last minute only to bring the car to a complete stop. If the light changes back to green, you often don't ever hit the brake. You slow down by letting up on the throttle and then continue from there. This is a feel that is hard, if not impossible, to recreate in an gas car.

Perfect, smooth acceleration - No matter what speed you are at, pressing the throttle yields acceleration instantly with no hesitation. Because there is a single-speed gearbox, there is no downshifting and so no hesitation or jerk. The Tesla feels extremely smooth to drive because of this.

Fast - This is the fastest car I've ever owned. Its acceleration amazes me. When combined with the lack of shifting, it is a powerful combination.

Sleek and beautiful - I constantly get people staring and asking about the car. Many of them don't actually know what it is and just like how it looks. It is the most beautiful car I've ever owned and one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. For people who have a lot of attention to detail, you notice the subtle curves in the overall shape of the car especially as they round out the rear. Rather than just straight, boring curves or lines, you see curves that are unusual in a car's appearance. From the slope down to the front like a Maserati to the curves along the rear panels, it is a very beautiful car.

No fumes and bad smell - My garage never has fumes or smell. I notice this especially when I switch to a gas car (like a rental). I think we all get used to the cars we have and don't notice this as much. But once you switch to an EV, you begin to notice how much of a difference this makes. The smell of gas and fumes is offensive to me now.

Don't have to interrupt my routine to go get gas - Looking back, I always hated having to look down, see my tank approaching empty and then have to interrupt my day to stop and get gas. After using the pumps, I would feel like I need to wash my hands 3 times. And the smell of the fumes from the gas is awful. I also recently encountered yet another reason to hate gas stops. I took a car to fill it up at a gas station and while I was there, someone came up to me asking for money. You never know who you're dealing with in a situation like that.

Instantly turns on A/C and music when I open the door - Because there are no emissions, CO or CO2, the car automatically turns on when I open the door. This turns on my music and the A/C (if I had it on previously). Even though its in the garage, they are safe to do this.

Constant internet connectivity - This is a cool feature. By having internet connectivity all the time, I have streaming music, constantly up-to-date maps, traffic, weather, web access, etc.

Automatically pauses music - I notice the little things. If I'm using internet streaming music (instead of XM, FM, etc.), it will automatically pause the music when I get a phone call. It also will do this during a short stop. So if a song is playing when I get out of the car to go into a store, it will pause and then resume when I get back automatically without me hitting any button.

Controlling it with my phone - I can use my smart phone to turn on the A/C, unlock the charge port, unlock the doors, see its location on a map, honk the horn or flash the lights. Since the entire car is controlled by software, I would expect they can add more in the future.

Easy to plug in with one hand - This is a little thing but yet it is something I've noticed and effects you daily. The car is easier than plugging in my cell phone. The plug has a button on it and when you press that button near the charge port, the port automatically opens. You then can click the plug in easily with one hand. If you notice, your cell phone usually takes two hands - one to hold the phone and one to plug in the small connector. Since this is something I do every night when I come home, it helps - especially when my other hand is holding something.

Automatic software updates - This is very cool. Like your cell phone, I get features over time. They've made many improvements to the car since I bought it already and many more are coming.

Superchargers  - I haven't used one yet but the idea that they are available in case I did want to take a cross-country trip is very cool. They offer them to owners for free for life. I also think that it is interesting to note that I haven't had any need for one yet after a year of daily driving. I have never even come close to using up all of my range so far. So there really is no "range anxiety" with this car. The superchargers just give me confidence that I could use the car for a trip if I wanted.

Huge 17" touchscreen - The touch screen is very easy to use and large enough to easily tap while driving. This was a big risk, in my opinion, with the car because prior touch screens in cars were criticized for being hard to use when driving. This makes sense since you have no tactile feedback with a touch screen. But in Tesla's case, the screen is huge and the buttons are positioned well so there is ample room between them and they are easy to glance at and find. I've had no trouble using the touch screen while driving. Also, its size is very nice. I can full screen the navigation map and see a huge overhead map when I need. And of course it supports multi-touch for easy zooming and moving.

Retracting door handles - This is actually one of my favorite things about the Model S. When I walk up to the car, the door handles extend automatically when I'm near the door since it senses the key in my pocket. Even after a year of using the car daily, I still love this. It is so "welcoming" as an owner.

Keyless and button-less entry/exit - Many cars have keyless entry. But with the Tesla, there is no extraneous button to press or key to turn after getting in the car to start anything. So you're experience is to walk up to the car, the car unlocks and the door handles extend automatically, you get in and hit the brake with your foot, then move the drive mode from "park" to "drive" to go. Likewise, when you are stopped and want to get out, you simply put the car back in "park" and get out. No additional button to press to turn anything off. And as you walk away, it detects that you are no longer near and, after a time, locks the car for you and retracts the door handles. After getting used to this, I drove a different car and accidentally, got out leaving the key in and the car running! You really get spoiled.

All in all, this car has lived up to my very high expectations. I feel privileged to own it. I'm so impressed with the car they've built that it is hard to describe. Tesla built a completely new car from the ground up and got it almost perfect the first time. That is a difficult accomplishment for any technology or industry. I remain very impressed.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Consumer Reports Recommends Tesla Model S

Previously, when Consumer Reports reviewed the Model S, they gave it a rating of "99" which was the highest ever given to a car. Because the car was new and had no track record, they couldn't "recommend" since there was no real-world customer history to report defects in the car. But that has now changed, they have enough feedback from customers and have now officially recommended the Tesla Model S.
"The groundbreaking Tesla Model S earned Consumer Reports highest test score and it aced crash tests, yet we could not truly recommend it—until now."
After almost a year of driving mine daily, I recommend it too!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The nonsense surrounding the Tesla Model S fire

It amazes me as I encounter all the instant negativity about the recent Tesla Model S car fire. It seems that some people just look for excuses to be negative. For the record, Tesla sent out a letter explaining the details of the car fire including what triggered it and how the car and its safety features performed as a result. You can read it yourself here: Model S Fire.

I think they've adequately explained what happened and it looks like the Model S performed extremely well under the circumstances by giving the driver enough time to pull over and get out of the car safely. This is no surprise to me because every other aspect of the car that I have no driven daily for the last 9 months has proven to me that they took great pains to handle even the smallest details.

What amazes me though is the absurdity of the negativity. I think I've witnessed 2 car fires of gas powered cars in the last 6 months just in my local area.  I suspect that if a gas powered car hit a metal object like that at full speed, it could have resulted in an explosion or at minimum a dangerous car fire. But the naysayers jumped on it like it's the end of Tesla. They really don't get it. Tesla built a beautiful, functional and safe car that has proven itself to be better than any other car on the road. This is my opinion - a proud owner.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How the Tesla Model S is Made

Tesla Motors has already demonstrated that they've innovated with their new product - the Tesla Model S is a giant leap for cars from the owner's point of view. But what hasn't been widely known is that they've also greatly innovated in the manufacturing process for the car. After watching the video below, it is now clear to me that they've rethought everything about what a car should be and how it should be produced in a modern context of all the latest technology.